The burly miner blinked as he left the dark interior of the coal mine. Stopping at a faucet near the mine entrance, he washed the worst of the grime from his face and hands, then headed towards his home on the outskirts of the village. As he trudged along the dusty lane, he passed the open door of a little church. Inside, a small crowd listened intently as an energetic man gesticulated from the pulpit. Interested, the miner stepped to the door.
"Absolute surrender is what we must have," the minister was saying. "Are you willing to surrender yourself absolutely into His hand? If not, you are not ready to meet your God." The minister paced back and forth on the platform. "We do not know how much longer our earthly probation will last. Tonight you are living; tomorrow may be too late. Ask yourself, I beg of you, 'Am I ready to meet the Lord?'"
The miner, touched to the quick, slipped into the back pew. I am not ready to meet God, he thought. I have lived a careless, godless life. How can I make peace with Him? The meeting ended, and the people filed out. Still the miner remained in the pew, his head in his hands.
Finally, the minister touched him on the shoulder. "Brother, are you ready to meet the Lord?"
Blindly, the miner shook his head. "I know I am not. Oh, help me find peace!"
An hour passed as the minister shared the plan of salvation; yet something held the miner back from full surrender.
"It's getting late," the minister finally said. "Go home, and continue to seek the Lord."
The miner shook his head."Stay with me a little longer; it must be settled tonight."
Once again the minister explained the way of salvation and prayed, but in vain. Another hour passed.
"You must go home," the minister told him. "It's late, and I cannot make it any clearer."
"It must be settled tonight," the miner repeated,his eyes burning with earnestness.
"Then we shall stay here together," the minister agreed. Once more he spoke of Jesus, and shared promise after promise. Once more he prayed, but in vain. "I must go," the minister finally said. "It will soon be morning. Go home, and return tomorrow night. Maybe then you will find peace."
"Sir, I cannot leave this place until I find peace."
The poor man's voice trembled. "Tomorrow may be too late. It must be settled tonight."
The minister could not resist his appeal. "By the help of God." he said, "it shall be settled tonight."
Again he explained the steps of conversion; again he prayed. As he spoke, the miner broke into sobs and tears, and at last the light pierced his darkness.
"I see it!" he cried. "I give myself absolutely to God, to His will, to do only what He wants. It is settled.
Praise His name, it is settled!" The two men knelt again, but this time to thank God for bringing light to a sinner's soul.
The next morning the miner went to work as usual. During the day he was sent to a distant part of the mine to fetch some tools. When he did not return, his fellow workers went to look for him. They found that the mine walls had caved in on him, and he was buried in the debris. Working with pick and shovel, they began to dig. Finally, from the fragments of rock and rubbish and stone which hid him from sight, came a faint sound: "Tonight ---- would have been ---- too late. Thank God ---- it was settled ---- last night!"